Plain-packaged cigarettes only from today

By Jessica Tyson

From today retailers in Aotearoa aren't allowed to sell cigarettes in branded packaging. Instead, they'll be permitted to sell plain packages featuring graphic health warnings.

The regime came into force on March 14 but an extra 12 weeks was allowed for old stock to be distributed and sold.

New pictures and health warnings will cover at least 75 percent of the front of the packs and all tobacco company marketing imagery will be removed.

The packets will be the same standard dark brown and green background colour as Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland and France. 

Health warnings will cover the packets. Source: Ministry of Health

Hāpai Te Hauora CEO Lance Norman offered his support for this legislation.

"We congratulate those in government who spearheaded this move, especially the Māori Affairs Select Committee and Dame Tariana Turia,” he says.

“We also believe that the benefits of plain packaging could be maximised by implementing this in tandem with other efforts to reduce its access, appeal and affordability".

Smoking has been particularly damaging for Māori and latest statistics by Smokefree show 35 percent of Māori adults smoke.

Tobacco researcher Justin Cochran discussed her recent study which focused on the graphic health warnings of tobacco packaging at the University of Auckland.

"We found that exposing smokers to negative health warnings, particularly those that are more disgusting, can reduce how much attention they pay to tobacco packaging, which often serves as a reminder to smoke.  These findings suggest that these legislative changes could be helpful in reducing the appeal of smoking and perhaps contribute towards changing attitudes around smoking."

It is estimated that the introduction of plain packaging in Australia in 2011 accelerated the decline of smoking prevalence and led to approximately 100,000 fewer smokers in the 36 months following.